Animals bring out the best in most people, fostering a capacity for affection and tenderness that might otherwise remain inaccessible. Such is the case with Dante, an Irish wolfhound. When Dante loses a leg to cancer, he exhibits an almost Ghandi-like tolerance for pain, inordinately sensitive to the emotional needs of his owner, Rae. Dante's calm acceptance of his fate is critical, for he has much work to do with his human. While Rae covertly watches her pet, eyes darkened by the sadness of his imminent suffering, Dante gets along splendidly on his three remaining legs.
Rae has known love before, each time believing this man is the one, but all leave eventually. In every instance, Dante is there to soothe his human, to comfort her and fill the empty spaces, his soulful eyes speaking volumes. Rae has enjoyed many friendships over the years, a decent income from work she loves and a ranch in one of the most beautiful spots in Denver, Colorado, God's country, where she can withdraw from the world when necessary to frolic with her animals and enjoy life on the land. Rae has pursued a career as a playwright because she is fascinated by the way people fail to listen to one another, including herself, the way most follow their own agendas: "History is a starfish that grows an extra arm no matter how many times the original limb is severed."
As the story evolves, each new chapter is written in the first-person voice of those who know Rae, lovers, confidants and friends who offer differing perspectives into the mind of an ambitious, sensitive and talented woman, her history complicated by fears and personal failings, the comfort of Eastern religions and an innate willingness to accept life`s challenges with her best friend, the noble Dante, at her side.
It is Dante's task to help Rae bridge a paralyzing fear of his impending death, to accept love in all its forms and live each day in gratitude for the bounty she enjoys. Quite a task. But if any dog is up to it, Dante can pull off this assignment. Through the passage of time and natural disasters, like the wildfires that raged through Colorado threatening to decimate the landscape, the devastation of 9/11 and life's inevitable ups and downs, Rae and her eclectic assortment of friends and pets move from one year to the next, all watching Dante, waiting for the inevitable. Yet, on the ranch, everything speaks to nature's cycles, birth, death, rebirth. It is a land of many lessons and perhaps why Rae is so at home in this country.
This is a love story, after all. The love of a woman for her dog, Dante, and that dog for his owner, a love that sustains them through a series of painful operations, that transcends time and place to teach Rae and the other humans a vital lesson: love conquers fear. People lover, dog lover, by description, Rae would have to be a Virgo, an earth mother, Dante her intransigent spirit guide. Luan Gaines/2005.